64 Barolo, serving advice?

Morning all. My mate Cos recently picked up a 1964 Francesco Rinaldi Barolo and is planning on opening it in the next few weeks. That said neither one of us has any real experience with serving Barolo this old (or young, if you ask Klapp!). Our thoughts are teetering between a slow ox or a decant but I was hoping someone here might have further advice. Any comments folks? Thanks in advance!

Open around 12 hours in advance, taste, and recork. I’ve had good success with that sort of regime; in fact, I did it to the 1967 of this same wine and it was excellent at dinnertime.

The most important thing: Stand it upright for a week or so and pour (or decant) very carefully. Old nebbiolo sediment, if stirred up, will spoil the experience.

I’d be very cautious about decanting. Open it ahead and sample. You can kill an old one by decanting if it’s teetering on the edge. Nebbiolo is pretty sturdy, but you never know at that age. Six months ago I killed a 95 Burlotto that was not in great shape by decanting it.

Mr. Klapp, I think, would tell you that wines do indeed get too old. 1964 is a unique year in that it is in a small group of vintages that have incredibly long lives. It is always difficult to approach an old bottle of wine and I find nebbiolo to be the least predictable of all. With that said, I will make a few comments. First, the slow-ox method does essentially nothing after the first hour of letting the initial funk of air trapped beneath the cork dissipate. Given the air exchange rate and the chemical reactions, I see no logic in doing this any longer vs. decanting (I’m sure plenty will chime in after this post to call me out on this based on personal and anecdotal experience). Second, the advice given about standing the wine and being exceptionally careful with a decant is quite correct. Nebbiolo precipitate has earned its reputation for being exceptionally fine. Third, I can’t speak to John’s 1995 Burlotto of “not great shape” but I’ve never had a good bottle of nebbiolo from a truly age-worthy vintage fall apart in anything resembling a short period of time (meaning one can monitor a bottle and make a decision at the time). Finally, I’d strongly consider decanting this wine well in advance of drinking it. One can always return it to its bottle and cover it to limit evolution once it reaches its apogee. Mr. Klapp has repeatedly suggested decanting such bottles, especially from vintages such as 1964 (and 67, 71, 78, etc.) for upwards of 12 hours (in fact, I believe 1-2 days is not unusual).

*I wish you luck in enjoying your bottle. I’ve not had a wine of that age from F. Rinaldi and so I’m not speaking from personal experience in reference to this producer and vintage combination.

I am going to have the same problem with a 1956 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo, an otherwise horrible year worldwide for wine. Any experience with the 1956? I imagine the same treatment is appropriate. A little thread theft, sorry Andrew.

Sorry, I probably wasn’t clear. My point was to sample the bottle and see how fresh it is. My mistake was noticing a trace of oxidation, yet double decanting the bottle to take it to a restaurant. It was utterly oxidized when we poured it there an hour or two later. I think it would have been a bit tired but pleasant if I hadn’t decanted it. (I have had many bottles of this wine, with some bottle variation. I should have known better than to decant once I detected that this bottle was a bit tired.)

There will be more knowledgeable than I respond here, but I would double decant early in the day and recork it. Then drink it that evening. Also, you cannot underestimate John’s comments on setting it upright for a week at least (i’d go significantly longer) and be very careful with the decanting to keep the fine sediment out of the wine you will drink.

FWIW, I’ve had far fewer older Nebbiolo wines from age worthy vintages like 64 that got worse over the night than ones that improved.

My 2 lira

We had a 1979 Monfortino last weekend, which on initial pour (suspect recently opened) was fading badly. Over ~ an hour or two it improved greatly in the glass and was still improving at the end. It did have fine sediment that did detract from later pours. This has probably tipped me over into the slow-ox method as preferred.

So, I’d agree with the open a good few hours in advance and pour a small glass. Wait a minute or two and taste. If good, then put the cork back in and leave the bottle upright, then either pour all glasses in one go, or gently decant. If smelling/tasting very old/tired on opening, then leave the cork off (perhaps with a little gauze over the top to stop fruit-flies or other insects getting in). It may still not recover, but many do & if it tastes ok a few hours later then treat the same as before.


I opened a bottle of 1968 Marcarini Brunate yesterday. 1968 was apparently a good but not great vintage.

I followed my usual process with old Barolo. I opened it around noon (after standing it up for about 3 weeks) and decanted it. We had small glasses at around 5, 8, and 10 pm. The best was the 10 pm glass. There’s about 1/3 of the bottle left in the refrigerator, and I’ll try it again in a bit.

All that to say, I agree with those saying there can’t really be a set regimen. But I have never had an old Barolo fall apart from decanting that wasn’t shot already. I’m not a big fan of the slow-ox – i.e., leaving the wine in the bottle after pouring a bit out. It’s just not enough air for a wine that almost always really needs it to show best.

Lots of good advice here, so I’ll just sum up what I have learned from drinking about 70 comparable wines (well, including some lesser nebbiolos, but I don’t think it makes that much difference practice-wise):

– leave the bottle upright for a long time. A week or two will definitely help, but longer is certainly better; I aim for 8-10 weeks minimum.

– decant (very carefully) 6-12 hours before serving, generally less air seems to be required for lesser wines/vintages, but provenance probably is a major factor. Personally, I try for the earlier decant and if the wine seems pretty advanced I will just pour it back in the (cleaned) bottle and stand in a cool place. If more air seems necessary, I’ll leave it in the decanter.

– if the wine seems very tart and short of fruit upon opening, this just means it needs a lot of air. A ‘sweetish’ taste or smell suggests (to me, anyhow) that it may come around sooner.

– enjoy slowly, with a well-kept bottle (as yours certainly appears), the best glass could easily be the last.


I had the '71 of the F. Rinaldi normale a few weeks ago for Greek Easter. I think your friend’s is a normale too. I’ve had other bottles that have Brunate or Cannubio on them.

Anyway, this is the second '71 Rinaldi that I’ve opened that’s smelled like dirty rotten wood. The first one, I didn’t know any better and I dumped it. This second time, though, I was too busy with other stuff so I left the bottle sitting on our buffet in our dining room for basically 19 hours. Nothing was poured out of it. The next morning as I was heading out to work, I noticed the bottle and took a sniff. It was gorgeous smelling, though more on the medicinal camphor part of the nebbiolo spectrum. There was still blackberry fruit with a little red berries in there. Excellent balance of acidity and tannins. Just a very good wine starting on the back end of its maturity plateau.

This I DO doubt very much!
(Plenty of excellent positive expoerieces with 5-6+ hours of slow-oxing …)

Nice editing of my quote to cut out the most relevant part. So you doubt based on your anecdotal evidence? Have you ever opened two identical (as much as can be accomplished with properly aged wine) bottles and tried treating the other differently? Do you often drink aged nebbiolo, and have you tried exposing it to various amounts of air?

My question is why do people suggest putting the cork back in the bottle ? Once the cork is pulled isn’t the genie out of the proverbial bottle ?

I agree with Pat for Barolo/Barbaresco…and I agree with Gerhard for aged Burgundy, actually with most other aged wines. Barolo is such an oddity regarding it’s aging characteristics and its ability to benefit from decanting time even at an extreme age.

How I would handle your 64 Rinaldi:

Stand the bottle up a 2 weeks ahead of time.

Mid morning of the event: Decant it off the sediment. Be super careful about keeping all sediment from going into the decanter…barolo sediment is nasty! Make sure you have a good light source under the wine to see sediment clearly. Give it 1/2 hour in the decanter and return to the bottle.

An hour and a half (or so) before dinner: have a small taste to see how it’s doing. If it’s closed, too structured or has off aromas/flavors, put it back in the decanter. If so, I’d judge it at 15-30 minute intervals based on the aromatics (nothing wrong with tastes, but seems like you’ll want to preserve as much wine for dinner, and I think judging by aromatics here is fine…also, don’t forget that you’re going to lose a reasonable amount to sediment in most/many cases).

Final steps: invite me to the dinner for the final critical essential tips :slight_smile:

I don’t see the value in tasting the wine when the bottle is first opened because, unless you have a fair amount of experience with aged Barolo, it’s very very difficult to evaluate. It’s likely to be closed, and have stinky aromas…so discerning between an oxidized wine and a wine needing a lot of air time to open and clean up can be very difficult.

I’m lucky to have a friend (several friends, but one mainly) that collects (and opens) old Barolo. So I’ve been lucky to have had many bottles from 1947, 50, 52, 58 and many vintages from the 60’s and 70’s. And those wines all benefited greatly from treatment like the above. I’m not intending to brag here, just trying to convey there’s some experience behind my thoughts (and thoughts of my friends that I learned from).

Finally, I think the Zalto Universal or Gabriel glass are perfect for aged Barolo!

I have had this wine twice in recent memory. I have found the following technique to be extremely effective both for this particular bottle and for Barolo of that approximate age: stand up in a cool place for at least a few days and preferably a week beforehand. Open the bottle about one hour before drinking with a Durand. Decant through a funnel/strainer and unbleached cheese cloth. You can then certainly sample the wine if you wish but if it is a good bottle, it will be singing in about one hour. I do not subscribe to the so-called “slow ox” method.

Just for instance:

a month ago I opened a 1965 Barolo for a dear friend to his anniversary. Opened, tasted a tiny glass … almost undrinkable, acidic, unpleasant, like an old wet cleaning tissue …
After another 1.5 hours: slightly better, but still unpleasant. (I was worried because this was my birthday gift …)

6 hours later a very nice enjoyable wine, even with hints of sweetness and enough mature fruit to provide pleasure, much better than expected (if not an outstanding wine).

I taste a lot of very mature wines, not necessarily a lot of Nebbiolos …

E.g. in our monthly tasting round the guy usually responsible never slow-oxes … and rarely decants - he prefers to pop and pour (often thereby swirling up the sediment in the bottle [head-bang.gif] ).
In February we had a bottle of 1971 Barolo, obviously on its last legs directly from the bottle, barely alive and quite acidic.
I retasted the remains the next day (one can say after a slow-oxing of 12+ hours, the sediment having settled down) - and it was very much better than the evening before … really blossoming …

So I still doubt that slow-oxing isn´t for the benefit also for Barolo/Barbaresco …

There may be different reasons, but for me:

  • Stop the bugs getting in
  • Leave a wine ‘cork off’ for a week and I’d expect it to be dead (albeit I’ve not done this experiment, just seen the effects a day or two later), uncork and then recork and it might have a fighting chance. This one is based on anecdotal evidence rather than anything more scientific.

Which brings me onto the argument of Jamie Goode a while back, where he argued that pouring half a full bottle into a half bottle (to have later) was suicidal for the wine, as the amount of oxygen introduced into the wine was far more than just putting the cork back in the top of the full bottle - or even leaving the cork off!


I hate to challenge Jamie, who respect enormously, but is he talking about young or old wines? If it’s young wines, he’s just wrong, particularly if you refrigerate the half.